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GVP Gear G4 Pack

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by the Product Review Staff | 2003-06-24 03:00:00-06

Utility for PDA-Wielding Executives

"This pack multitasks like a PDA-wielding executive," notes one ridiculous review of this pack published in another backpacking magazine. We all scratched are heads and asked ourselves, "What exactly does this mean? Is it useful information? What kind of PDA are they talking about? Where did this writer go to college? So, we promise that this review will provide accurate, up-to-date information about the G4 based on an honest evaluation.

Introduction

We have been reviewing the G4 pack for two years, with a suite of six reviewers from all parts of the world. This report represents a culmination of that field testing period and a summary of our review findings.

About the Pack

The G4 is a large frameless rucksack. It has one top-loading main packbag compartment, three external mesh pockets, and a hip belt. It is designed primarily for light loads of less than 25 pounds.

Specifications

Weight. Glen Van Peski, the manufacturer, claims an average weight of a standard (no custom options) G4 is 13 oz. We weighed a total eight standard packs - two size larges, four mediums, and two smalls. The range was from 12.7 oz to 13.2 oz, with an average weight of 12.8 oz. It is refreshing to know that a manufacturer's claim is accurate. Kudos to GVP Gear.

Volume. The main packbag is a voluminous 3,100 cubic inches with a 600 cubic inch capacity extension collar. We found this claim to be accurate if not slightly understated upon verifying the volume with packing peanuts. Two mesh side pockets are approximately 300 cubic inches each, and one external front mesh pocket is approximately 300 cubic inches, bringing the pack's maximum capacity to 4,600 cubic inches.

Pockets. All pockets are non-stretch mesh, which makes for a little bagginess in the pockets unless they are stuffed. We prefer a stretchier mesh (like PowerMesh) that is less likely to snag on brush, and lies flat against the pack when the pockets are empty.

Extension Collar. The extension collar is shockcorded, which makes for easy opening and closing, but the cleaner-looking configuration is to use the roll-top closure, which works well until the pack and extension collar is overstuffed.

Volume:Weight Ratio. You've gotta do the math here. The volume-to-weight ratio of this pack is phenomenal - approximately 354 cubic inches per ounce. Consider that the average internal frame pack of similar volume available in your local outfitters shop is 50-65 cubic inches per ounce, you can begin to appreciate the volume that this pack can carry for its weight. Although we didn't initially feel that volume was terribly important, we slowly began to appreciate the benefits, especially when packing light but very puffy gear like sleeping bags, down parkas, and 2L titanium pots on winter outings.

Suspension. The G4 is a frameless pack. however, it contains a mesh pad sleeve on the back designed to accomodate one of a variety of folded sleeping pads, with a 6- or 8-section Cascade Designs Z-Rest being the primary recommendation. The shoulder straps and hip belt contain pockets to insert foam padding (included) or small pieces of clothing (like extra socks).

Carrying Capacity. GVP Gear claims that this pack is designed to carry 25 pound loads, and they offer some tips at their Web site for properly packing the pack. Overall, we found this to be a reasonable claim, and we go into more detail about its carrying capacity in the "performance" section below.

Options. The standard G4 comes in Forest Green and Black, has an ice axe loop, and is available in Small (16-19"), Medium (18-22"), and Large (20-24") torso sizes, and are usually in stock. Custom-built packs offer a variety of options, including different colors, different packbag and pocket fabric specifications, inside pockets, and additional ice axe loops.

Performance

Durability. Our GVP packs have hiked more than 1,500 miles during two summer seasons among six reviewers carrying loads up to 35 pounds. They are still like new and we had no seam failures. Four of our packs showed noticeable abrasion marks and two of those were littered with holes on the outside of the pack caused from (1) sliding butt-first down a granite scree slope, and (2) sitting on the pack repeatedly at rest breaks. Two packs have large tears in the side mesh pockets resulting from (1) intense bushwacking through slide alder hillsides in the Washington Cascades (2) a determined packrat on the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail. Compared to off-the-shelf packs available at your outfitter, we'd give the G4 a "C" for durability as a result of using light fabric. However, this is not your normal pack. It's for people who want to go ridiculously light and have the skill to be able to take extra care of their gear. So, to be fair, we have to assign a grade that more accurately reflects the durability of this pack: a durability-to-weight grade, for which we give the G4 a resounding "A". Since it's inception, the G4 has undergone a variety of design and manufacturing changes, and it shows. It is a well made pack.

Load Carrying Comfort. We tested the G4 carrying a lot of loads that exceeded 25 pounds. We really wanted to push the pack to its limits to evaluate its comfort on those long desert crossings where one might be carrying 10, 20, or more pounds in water weight. Even following the manufacturer's instructions, we were unable to remain very happy for very long (some reviewers made plots of perceived happiness vs. miles hiked while carrying 35 pounds in the G4 and they were not pretty). Thus, it appears, like most frameless packs, the G4's lack of frame limits its load carrying capacity. In addition, the use of ultralight fabric for the packbag (1.9 oz ripstop nylon), which has little mechanical resiliency, results in a lack of load stabilization at higher loads that further contributes to discomfort.

Keep in mind that comments above are based on experiences that are clearly outside the norm of manufacturer recommendations, so we will not downgrade our assessment of the pack's performance due to these limitations. Having said that, all of our reviewers believed that the G4 would be tolerable for short distances with heavy loads if necessary. We do wish the pack had compression straps (at least as a standard option), because small loads slumped to the bottom of the pack and caused it to ride a little low on the butt.

We evaluated several different types of pads to use as the frame, including folded Z-Rest and Therma-Rest Ultralight 3/4 pads in the pad sleeve, a 3/8" foam pad rolled as a cylinder inside the pack, and a Therma-Rest Ultralight 3/4 pad rolled as a cylinder inside the pack. We found that the folded Z-Rest configuration was comfortable for loads of up to 20 pounds, and we appreciated the accessibility of the pad for rest breaks. A Therma-Rest folded in the same configuration and slightly inflated worked fair, but the mesh pad sleeve was too stretch to contain the pad and help maintain the pack's shape at heavier loads. The use of a 3/8" foam pad rolled as a cylinder inside the pack worked extremely well, but at heavier, tighter loads, it did not bend as well to the shape of the spine as did the pads that were in the sleeve. Finally, for those that need more serious weight-bearing capacity, the use of a Therma-Rest Ultralight 3/4 rolled in the pack as a cylinder before packing, and then inflated to its max after packing, proved to be a terrific way to stretch the G4's load carrying capacity. However, it suffered a similar fate as the cylinder foam pad, and makes the G4 akin to a barrel on your back. Despite that limitation, it was our tester's unanimous choice for comfort.

Summary

In summary, we liked the G4, but it took a lot of time to grow on us, as we learned how to use the pack to its maximum benefit. At first, our reviewers balked at the massive volume, but eventually came to crave it for stuffing the puffies when the temperature dropped.

The G4 is not for everyone. It is not a performance pack for load carrying, nor is it made to withstand the rigors of mountaineering or snow-backpacking through thick evergreen forests. However, it is a trail hiker's nirvana, and is entirely appropriate for open cross country travel in the mountains. Its remarkable weight means that it contributes little to your load, and if your average pack weight remains under 20 pounds (or even better, under 15), the G4 just might be the pack for you.

Final Grade: A-minus

Suggested Improvements: Stretch mesh material on the pockets, better security for the rolltop (replace Velcro with side-release buckles for better compression).

Contact:

Glen Van Peski
http://www.gvpgear.com


Citation

"GVP Gear G4 Pack," by the Product Review Staff. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/00082.html, 2003-06-24 03:00:00-06.

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Frameless Backpack Suspension Systems
The purpose of this thread is to discuss frameless backpack suspensions, load carrying capacities, design considerations, packing methods, and other factors that contribute to making a frameless backpack more comfortable to wear. The reader is referred to the following articles as basis for this discussion:
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Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: test on 11/19/2003 11:42:54 MST Print View

test

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: test on 11/19/2003 11:44:49 MST Print View

test

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: test on 11/19/2003 11:57:40 MST Print View

test

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: test on 11/19/2003 12:01:37 MST Print View

test

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: test on 11/19/2003 12:02:49 MST Print View

test

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: Re: test on 11/19/2003 12:32:52 MST Print View

http://www.backpackinglight.com/

www.backpackinglight.com

bob@infomillions.com

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: Zit work? on 11/19/2003 19:02:20 MST Print View

y

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: Zit work? on 11/19/2003 19:02:35 MST Print View

n


(Anonymous)
Re: Re: Comment Area On Order Form on 11/20/2003 09:01:11 MST Print View

Your inquiry has been filed as:

IUC#97843167677315873431763

Your confirmation code is:

AKJ FDF

Changes to this inquiry require a $50 change fee.

Response:

"That's because we was testing the forum settings. they are back on and should be working as stated."

BackpackingLight.com Web Site Development Department

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Sleeping Pads for Frameless Pack Suspensions on 11/22/2003 13:49:35 MST Print View

To start the discussion, I'll pose a question (feel free to post your own as well):

What type of sleeping pad(s) do you use for integrating into a frameless pack suspension (include the brand and whether or not it's an inflatable or closed cell foam), and how do you use it as such (folded, rolled, etc.)?

Donald Johnston
(photonstove) - MLife
Re: Sleeping Pads for Frameless Pack Suspensions on 11/22/2003 14:23:40 MST Print View

Currently I am using Mount Washington Evazote closed cell foam pads as the structure for my MoonBow Gearskin. This is a pack that folds and buckles closed. Tightening the buckles ties the gear and pads together to increase structure.

Edited by photonstove on 11/22/2003 14:40:37 MST.

John Atchley
(slatchley) - F
Re: Sleeping Pads for Frameless Pack Suspensions on 11/22/2003 14:57:05 MST Print View

I am using a thermarest 3/4 ultralite with a Go Lite Breeze. I roll it up, stick it in the pack, and let it unroll around the edge of the pack. Now I have a nice little tube to stick everything in and nothing digs into my back.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Sleeping Pads for Frameless Pack Suspensions on 11/22/2003 14:57:54 MST Print View

I currently use a self inflating Therm-a-Rest 3/4 length Ultralight. I typically insert it rolled into my backpack (deflated), and then inflate it to fill out the pack. My experience is that the inflated pad makes my pack no more (and less) rigid than if the pack was tight packed, filled with normal gear.

Tony Burnett
(tlbj6142) - F

Locale: OH--IO
torso length... on 11/22/2003 15:09:29 MST Print View

Regarding your torso length chart...

I have a 18.5" torso measure ALONG THE SPINE (IOW, not projected to a parallel surface).

I found the Moonlight to be way too long. The shoulder straps came straight up off of my shoulders rather than around the top and then down an inch or two. With this particular pack, it seems like the torso length is fixed at the "width" of your pad. Typically 20", less 1.5"-2", as the hipbelt's midline is a bit up from the bottom of the pack. I returned the otherwise beautiful pack because my shoulders got sore after carrying a 22# load on a 18mi day-hike (weekend load).

I now own a Katahdin, which I still find to be a bit long, even with the hipbelt raised to its "highest" position.

I have since discovered that the sore shoulder problem is due to a posture change (leaning forward too much) that occured when I tried to wheene myself from using trekking poles.

I have read the intro article and this one, but some of the torso length assumptions seems a bit odd.

BTW, I was using a Wally World 20"x50"x3/8" closed cell pad folded 2 twice in both packs.

Edited by tlbj6142 on 11/22/2003 15:15:50 MST.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: torso length... on 11/22/2003 15:21:41 MST Print View

>> I have a 18.5" torso measure ALONG THE SPINE (IOW, not projected to a parallel surface).

Which means that it's probably a little longer when projected.

>> I found the Moonlight to be way too long. The shoulder straps came straight up off of my shoulders rather than around the top and then down an inch or two.

It sounds like your pack may have been longer than our sample. You should contact Ron Moak and check. Perhaps there were changes made since the time we received our sample and the time you got your production version.

The other possibility is that you are wearing the hip belt with its centerline much higher than the iliac crest. Some folks do tend to wear their hip belts as "waist" belts.

>> With this particular pack, it seems like the torso length is fixed at the "width" of your pad.

The pack torso length is going to be measured from the shoulder strap seam to the hip belt centerline.

>> Typically 20", less 1.5"-2", as the hipbelt's midline is a bit up from the bottom of the pack.

The hip belt on our sample may be sewn higher than on yours. The centerline is several inches higher than the bottom of the pad.

>> I returned the otherwise beautiful pack because my shoulders got sore after carrying a 22# load on a 18mi day-hike (weekend load).

One possible source of this discomfort may be the narrow width of the shoulder strap. It affects different people in different ways, depending on your torso shape.

>> I have read the intro article and this one, but some of the torso length assumptions seems a bit odd.

The ideal torso assumptions are just that - assumptions - but we based them on industry conventions and feedback from pack designers from major manufacuters, which indicate that (1) some extra length needs to be built into the pack length to allow for pack collapse when loaded, and (2) the big one - that the ideal position of a hip belt is having its centerline about an inch below the iliac crest.

Edited by ryan on 02/29/2004 01:03:39 MST.

Joshua Bietenholz
(jbietenholz) - F
pad on 11/22/2003 15:25:29 MST Print View

Ryan,
Have you put the G-4 through similar testing? What were your findings if you have? I only use mine occasionally and when I do, I use two pads. The Z-rest and also, a full length 3/8" thick pad in the "rolled cylinder" configuration. The pack feels nice like this. I don't use the pack much in warmer weather because I simply don't have enough gear to fill it up.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: pad on 11/22/2003 15:31:07 MST Print View

We haven't yet done the analysis on the old / current model G4 - that pack was reviewed in an earlier review (but before we were doing these suspension analyses). We are waiting for Glen's new version to be released, and we'll publish the data on that as it becomes available.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: torso length... on 11/22/2003 15:32:24 MST Print View

>> I found the Moonlight to be way too long. The shoulder straps came straight up off of my shoulders rather than around the top and then down an inch or two.

I just reread this and I have a proposal why it didn't work for you, but realize that it's only an idea because I haven't seen it.

With a pack that has shoulder straps that are directly sewn in and do come straight off the shoulders, the upper panel of the pack needs to be close to your upper back, or it will pull you back. The most common fit problems of this type I see are when the back panel is not molded to shape of the wearer's back. This is a problem with frameless packs, especially those that have rolled cylinder pads in them, because they don't conform to the shape of your spine as well; hence, one benefit of bendable aluminum frame stays.

Solution: pack your pack not so dense so that it doesn't conform to the shape of your spine, and pound / bend a lumbar recess in the pack before putting it on to try to give it some natural curvature.

Steven Nelson
(slnsf) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Re: Sleeping Pads for Frameless Pack Suspensions on 11/22/2003 15:34:25 MST Print View

I use a Golite Speed. When I'll be sleeping in a hammock, I carry a rolled Target blue closed foam pad, strapped vertically into the helmet holder on the back of the Speed. This provides some longitudinal rigidity and leaves the pack quite comfortable and able to hug my back. Putting it inside the pack, whether folded or loosely rolled into a cylinder, does not work with the body-conforming, hourglass-shaped body on the Speed.

When I'll be sleeping in a tarptent, I roll up a Therm-a-Rest pad and strap it on the same way. If I were to switch to a smaller pad (such as the one BPL will be selling, or one of the new ones coming from Cascade Designs), I would probably just stow it inside the pack body.

Edited by slnsf on 11/23/2003 22:38:29 MST.

Tony Burnett
(tlbj6142) - F

Locale: OH--IO
Re: Re: torso length... on 11/22/2003 15:49:20 MST Print View

>>> I have a 18.5" torso measure ALONG THE SPINE (IOW, not projected to a parallel surface).

>>Which means that it's probably a little longer when projected.

Isn't this backwards? Wouldn't my "projected" torso length be shorter than my "along the spine" length? A straight line would be shorter than a curved line that has the same endpoints.